Postcard from Hallmark Hoax

An oldie but a goody has been making the rounds again. The old “postcard from a friend” warning hoax. This one has been circulating in one form or another since 2001. Every three or four years it gets reinvented. Once upon a time it was the “Olympic Torch” hoax. Now, it’s the “Postcard from Hallmark” and the “Postcard from a friend” hoax. Here’s what it looks like as of August and November 2008:

warning

Postcard from Hallmark Warning Hoax

There’s a few tipoffs that this message isn’t to be taken seriously. First off, the Subject line (not shown) has the text “FWD”which means my friend forwarded it to me, and didn’t actually write the message. In some cases you have to open attachments to get to the message, which means it’s been forwarded many times.

Another tipoff is that there are no datesmentioned. When did they check Norton? Norton usually issues updates in less than 24 hours to fight these viruses, so it may be a dead issue by the time I get this email. By the way, Norton doesn’t “gear up”. They just issue a fix and that’s it. Same goes for McAfee, AVG, TrendMicro, and Alwil Avast. they all want to be the first to defeat any new virus, so these things are usually non-issues in less than 24 hours.

Tip: If I saw my friend sent this to me more than a day ago, or that he received it more than a day ago, I’d assume the virus was dead by now. Most of these things have a shelf life of 48 hours. If you renew your antivirus subscriptions every year, then your antivirus gets updated automatically any where from 4 to 12 times per day. That’s about every 2 to 4 hours.

Another tipoff this message is a hoaxis the fact that though they mention “I checked with Snopes (URL above), and it is for real!!”, but there is no URL (web address) in the message. If you take the time to check Snopes you find out this email began popping up again in August and November 2008. That’s 6 months ago. The antivirus companies blocked this virus before Thanksgiving.

Here’s another tip. Here’s what a real email notice from Hallmark looks like as of today:

hallmark-hoax

A Genuine Email Notice From Hallmark

Here’s how to recognize a genuine email notice from Hallmark:

1. The “From” includes Hallmark’s “hallmarkonline.com” email address and your friend’s email address. These messages don’t come anonymously. In your Inbox you would see your friend’s email address or name.

2. The genuine Hallmark email shows your email address in the “To” box. It’s not going to show more than one email address.

3. The genuine Hallmark notice shows your friend’s name in the Subject line with their first and last name. The same goes for the inside of the email message where they boldly display your friend’s full name (red circle area). As a matter of fact, I sent this message to myself from the Hallmark web site, and Hallmark wouldn’t even send the message without a First and last name in the mail form.

Another thing to watch out for is attachments. Hallmark doesn’t send attachments.  If I got a message claiming to be from hallmark from an anonymous friend, and I saw an attachment, I’d know it was a fake. Tap the Delete key.

Best Protection

The best protection from these hoaxes is antivirus software. Get a quality antivirus program, and make sure you renew your antivirus subscriptions every year. The best antivirus programs are from McAfee, Symantec/Norton, TrendMicro, and my personal favorite Avast from Alwil Software at www.avast.com. It’s free, and it works. Check out my post about Avast from last month. it tells you how to best install and set it up.

Renew your antivirus subscriptions every year.

Let me reinforce that point: Renew your antivirus subscriptions every year. If you bought a new computer, chances are you only had a 30 day trial version. It doesn’t update any more after 30 days, so you’re only protected from old viruses after that, not the new ones.

Another Tip: “BCC:” and not “To:”

If you can’t help yourself, and you feel you must notify everyone in your address book, find out how to use the “BCC” (Blind Carbon Copy) feature in your email system instead of the “To” box when addressing your email. All email systems have the BCC feature, but they don’t all display it openly. Using “BCC” instead of  “To” will hide all your friend’s email messages from each other.

Have you heard of six degrees of separation? That’s the theory that we are all separated from one another by 6 people. For example, your friend’s friend’s friend’s friend’s friend is Kevin Bacon. Put another way, your friend six places removed maybe a spammer. The copy of the email warning I received had no less than 268 email addresses in it.  If I was a spammer I would be so very very happy right now to have all those real email addresses.

Conclusions

  • “Postcard from Hallmark” warning email is a hoax. It’s been going around for almost 10 years in one form or another.
  • Get quality antivirus software such as Avast. (Watch out for the bogus antivirus programs out there).
  • Renew your antivirus subscriptions every year. They expire, and expired subscriptions don’t protect you from new viruses.
  • Antivirus programs update at least 4 to 12 times a day
  • Most viruses are blocked in less than 24 to 48 hours.
  • Use BCC instead of To when sending out mass emails. Don’t know where it is? Call your Email Service Providers customer service line or check their Help page. (Don’t know where to look? Contact me or post a comment, and I’ll find out for you.  No charge.)
  • Got a question about a potential hoax? Ask Skylarking to investigate or check out http://www.skylarknetworks.com/email-hoaxes.htm#Email_Hoaxes:_How_Spot_Them,_How_To_Check_Them

Post Comments or Questions with the link below. Keep up-to-date with Skylarking: By Email or RSS Newsfeed or on Twitter. You can also send questions with my email form. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

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